Italy’s energy research agency ENEA announced plans recently to start working again on an experimental combo energy project.
Proponents say Archimede will be the largest integration of an existing gas power plant with a thermodynamic solar add-on. Rising near Siracuse in Sicily, the video rendering shows an army of solar panels catching rays by the sea. (Scroll for static image.)
Backers hope sun power will boost output at the plant to 5 megawatts, enough to meet the yearly needs of 4,500 families. It comes with a price tag of around €40 million (about $53 million) and should be fired up by 2009.
Savings in carbon dioxide emissions for this combi-plant are estimated at a staggering 7,300 tons and 2,400 tons of petroleum per year.
Like most things in Italy, much depends on politics. Archimede (Italian version of Archimedes, pronounced ark-E-med-ay) was the brainchild of Nobel winner Carlo Rubbia. It went dark in 2005 when Silvio Berlusconi’s government cut funding, causing Rubbia to quit his post at ENEA in protest and head for a more hospitable climate in Spain to continue work.
Romano Prodi’s shaky center-left government — whose other merits have yet to be seen — has at least managed to woo Rubbia back to the Bel Paese to act as special counselor to the environment ministry. (Conversely, Berlusconi’s pet project, a much-criticized suspension bridge to link Sicily to land, is now stalled.)
Rubbia, while lamenting the lost years in such a dynamic field, spoke glowingly at the launch, telling news agency ANSA he is “convinced this kind of technology will dominate the renewable energy field in the future.”
There are two things Italy needs: renewable energy and the work of its scientists. Here’s hoping that this kind of project will help regulate the brain drain flow and juice up the energy supply.